Updated May 10, 2004









Fellow Republicans Question President On Economy, War, Health Care, Jobs


By Mark Anderson


SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN—President George W. Bush (right) visited Niles and Kalamazoo May 3 in an effort to boost his voter support in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District. Many treated the president’s visit as something of unsurpassed significance, perhaps because they consider their towns to be forgotten hamlets where “kings” rarely tread.

These southwest Michigan stops during the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection effort were coordinated by liberal Republican Rep. Fred Upton. With Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land, Upton co-chairs the statewide effort to reelect Bush and Cheney.

Since Al Gore managed to win Michigan in the tight 2000 presidential race, an all-out effort is being made to deliver Michigan, and particularly Upton’s district, to Bush in November.

“Michigan’s going to stay close until the last minute,” an Indiana University professor told WSBT radio in South Bend, Ind., on May 3.

This factor explains Bush’s strong focus on Michigan, a key state that also has candidates from several other parties on its November ballot, including presidential candidate Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party—a party that could receive “switchover” votes from any Republicans and independents who may become disenchanted with the dominant parties in these challenging times.

Notably, the U.S. Taxpayers, Libertarian, Green, Natural Law and Reform parties all have candidates, from the local level on up, on the Michigan ballot. But the dominant media simply follows Bush and Kerry, with nary a word about political alternatives.

With the media on its heels, the Bush campaign bus is swinging through Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and at least two other Midwestern “swing” states in the first two weeks of May. As evidenced by Bush’s Niles visit, jobs are a major issue, along with “winning the war on terror.”

In Niles, a city of 9,000, the high school was the preferred pulpit for the president to address teens, school officials, municipal officials, state legislators, local business owners, etc.

Bush was well received on what he called “my first bus tour of my last campaign.”

He called for tort reform, lower health care costs and the encouragement of medical savings accounts, an energy policy to supposedly make energy costs cheaper, hydrogen cars, increased use of nuclear power with the latest technology, and a continued commitment to “faith-based” charity, in which federal money is doled out to Christian ministries involved in helping the poor. He also introduced business owners, in pre-arranged testimonials, who say they’re making progress despite the cool economic climate. Bush predicted an economic recovery is imminent.

The banner behind him in Niles read: “America—safer, stronger, better.”

But outside the controlled confines of the president’s town-hall meetings in Niles, Kalamazoo and other stops, and beyond all the hoopla, there are issues and questions that create a less-than-comforting backdrop for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

There’s a war producing daily American casualties that include mothers who left infants at home when called to duty and were later killed in action. Meanwhile, in the occupation of Iraq, there’s sparse tangible evidence that this war actually will make the American people less vulnerable to terrorist attacks on their own soil, although Bush stated in Niles that shutting down the Taliban regime in Afghanistan prior to the invasion of Iraq is said to have closed some Al Qaeda terrorist-training facilities in that distant nation.

Since 2000, Michigan has lost more jobs than any other state, which some analysts attribute to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a bi-partisan pact initially approved by George Bush the Elder, put into force by Bill Clinton and inherited by “Dubya.”

However, far from opposing or questioning NAFTA, Bush the Younger has expressed support for “NAFTA II,” otherwise known as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would extend NAFTA across the entire Western Hemisphere, sparking predictions in some quarters of even more illegal immigration and job losses in the United States.

Longtime Republican and Bush supporter Denzel Stewart of South Bend, Ind., was having coffee the morning of Bush’s May 3 visit in Niles. With his ticket to the president’s appearance on the table, Stewart told AFP that the president’s proposed amnesty for illegal aliens already in the United States, and for future border-jumpers, is troubling to him.

“Most people are uninformed about what’s going on,” he said. “I think there ought to be accountability for [immigrants]—if they have to fill out paperwork, so be it.”

“Jack,“ a friend of Stewart’s, also a Bush fan, shares Stewart’s feelings about illegal immigration and dislikes Bush’s amnesty proposals that were announced early this year in cooperation with Mexican president Vicente Fox.

“Every one of them convicted of a felony ought to be shipped right back,” Jack said, speaking of illegal immigrants.

Job losses—at least 2 million nationally since Bush took office—have some Michigan Republicans at the local level worrying that their revenue sources will dry up, as wealth-creating, revenue-enhancing manufacturing and hi-tech jobs leave the country.

Earlier Labor Department predictions of 3.3 million jobs moving offshore by 2015 have been cited as too low in other studies.

In Van Buren County, one of six counties in Upton’s District, Marlene Peasley, an elected township clerk and longtime Republican, thinks the issues facing the country are too serious to justify unconditional GOP support of the president. She wonders if the stated deadline to disengage in Iraq and turn over control to local authorities is realistic. Bush firmly pledged during his Niles visit that sovereignty will be transferred to Iraq June 30.

“Are we really going to be able to turn this over, in all good conscience, by June 30?” she told AFP.

She’s concerned that the deadline might be wishful thinking and that turning over control prematurely might leave Iraq in a state of chaos. But she also doesn’t like the idea of an open-ended military venture with no end in sight.

“I hope it goes only a few months, not years, for the sake of lives on all sides,” she said.

Ms. Peasley added: “Maybe we need to re-look at NAFTA . . . I’m concerned that some jobs sent to Mexico [under NAFTA] ended up in China. What is it we’re not doing that makes it more profitable [for American companies] to set up factories in China, bring their products here and still make a profit? Why isn’t there more of a tariff put on those products?”

Longtime Republican Larry Clymer, a former Niles mayor who’s a county commissioner and is involved in emergency preparedness for Berrien County, said a $937,000 homeland security grant from the federal government, provided via the new Department of Homeland Security, has been handed to the county’s counter-terrorism/emergency preparedness operations.

If Clymer had the chance, he said he would ask Bush “to expand and expedite more of the same, for anti-terrorism and natural disasters.” Clymer told AFP that he wants the federal money but also wants improved federal cooperation in getting better training for local emergency personnel, less red tape, and the allowance of more input from local officials in the federal counter-terrorism apparatus.

When asked about the recently-declassified Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing—which showed the Bush administration was warned that Osama bin Laden’s henchmen were planning a U.S. attack, that the henchmen were already within U.S. borders and that hijacking airliners was a likely tactic—Clymer expressed uncertainty over who knew what and when. He did not want to indict Bush over the matter. Nor does he think Bush is solely to blame for job losses.


But Marcellus, Mich., resident Dennis James, a former Reagan Republican and a one-time active Pat Buchanan Republican, sees the current Republican Party, especially its Michigan members, as hopelessly misguided. James, a former Michigan chairman of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, supports that party mainly because he considers it to be the only one with the Constitution in mind.

James said that if he was still in the GOP tent, he’d find it tough to be supportive of a president who proposed blanket amnesty for illegal aliens, who is a globalist free-trader supportive of anti-job policies, and who launched a military attack without a constitutional declaration of war while apparently fibbing about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that were invoked to justify the war.

James also cited the socialistic expansion of federal involvement in public education—to a degree that exceeds even President Clinton’s educational proposals—when the Constitution doesn’t authorize the feds to assume that role in the first place.

From Niles, Bush went on to Kalamazoo and Sterling Heights, Mich., May 3 en route to Ohio on May 4, touting tax cuts, better education and community college job training as keys to economic recovery in America. There were few, if any, tough questions asked of Bush about trade policies and the exodus of manufacturing jobs along with the outsourcing of good-paying hi-tech jobs.

But, ultimately, James believes the American people need to educate themselves without relying on the dominant media, and look beyond the two dominant political parties if they sense that solutions are in short supply and empty rhetoric abounds.